Friday, 8 July 2011

Santa Montefiore - The House by the Sea
Simon & Schuster sent me this book, and it claims to be 'the star of the summer' - I think they may be right.  If this isn't a 'Beach book' I don't know what one is!  I suspect there'll be a great many of these sold at airports and shoved into hand luggage for reading on a sunbed a couple of hours later.  And rightly so!  
I enjoyed this book and found it an easy read, with a plot that was simple to follow and with characters I quite liked.  The language is straightforward and you can pick this book up, put it down, drink your Sangria, go for a swim in the pool and pick it back up where you left off - effortless reading!  I have to say I loved and was frustrated in equal measure at the flowery descriptions 'The House by the Sea' specialises in.  Sometimes it was lovely to lose myself in the endless countryside descriptions, and at other times I found myself itching to skip the adjectives and find a few more verbs!  It was a bit slow moving sometimes, but then again, I think that's one of the reasons why the book is such a relaxing read.
The simplicity of it all is very attractive.  There are two storylines that work side by side, eventually linking up at the end, when all the loose ends are neatly tied up in a tidy bow.  This is a nice touch, as it does keep you guessing throughout.  I was very curious about how the characters in such different parts of the world were connected and it was very satisfying to see how deftly the author drew all the threads of the stories together.  
To summarize the plot (whilst trying not to spoil it for you...), a small orphan girl becomes friends with an older boy from a rich family, over the years that friendship blossoms into love in the midst of a lush Tuscan landscape.  The girl becomes pregnant and for her own safety is whisked away to begin another life, having to leave her baby and her lover behind.
The other storyline involves a hotel in Devon called the Polzanze, where they are struggling to make ends meet.  They employ an artist to conduct drawing lessons in an attempt to bring in custom, and he inadvertantly falls in love with Clementine, the step-daughter of the owner.  This is a rocky romance that mis-starts a number of times, while Clementine struggles to recognise her feelings and the artist (Rafa) struggles to keep his reasons for being at the hotel a secret.  Marina (the co-owner with her husband Grey) has her own hidden past which gradually reveals itself as the book progresses. 
'The House By The Sea' does all end happily, I don't think I'm ruining anything by telling you that - this is one of the charms of this book.  The whole story is 'nice', in fact I'd go so far as to say it is sugary sweet if I'm giving my personal opinion - perhaps a bit of grittiness would have grounded it in reality a little more.  Still, if you're the kind of person who loves a good romance and a happy ending, you can't go wrong with this novel.
In summary, it's a summer blockbuster!  There's enough interest to keep you reading, the characters are of different ages and at different stages of life so there's something there for everyone. Mind you, I'd be more than surprised to see any men reading this on the airplane home back from Costa del Packet.  The main themes are true love, loss, secrets, passion and if I had do describe this book in terms of a colour, I'd say it was pink - very pink!  It is a very feminine book destined to accompany a golden tan and a swimming pool.

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